We couldn’t very well have a walking tour without walking, so we set out on foot from our base of explorations in Carbis Bay toward the quaint English seaside resort town of St. Ives.
The name comes from St Ia’s cove, and the legend that is so intertwined with this region in Cornwall.
Many of the historic fourth and fifth century Cornish saints came from Ireland, and the story is that Ia was planning to join some of them on that voyage across the sea, but was left behind. As she prayed for a way to make the journey, a leaf floating up to shore and as she watched it began to grow bigger and bigger. Finally she climbed aboard the leaf and floated to this cove.
As we approached the city, we certainly saw that she had picked an ideal spot. The village is nestled around the little bay with several golden beaches that have led it to be twice named Best UK Seaside Town by the British Travel Awards.
Entering on the high road, for a better view, we came to the first of many encounters we would have with the works of Barbara Hepworth. Her bronze sculpture, Epidauros II, adorns the Malakoff overlooking the harbor, so we stopped for a look at both the art and the panorama.
Heading down to the waterfront, we made the church dedicated to St. Ia our first stop. The church was built during the reign of King Henry V from 1410 and 1434 as a chapel of ease, so parishioners would not have to travel several miles to Lelant for services.
It’s eighty-foot high tower served as a landmark for our finding our way around, and inside we found another Barbara Hepworth sculpture, her 1954 Madonna and Child, Bianco del Mare. The stark statue was her dedication to her son Paul who was killed while flying with the Royal Air Force in 1953.
Leaving Saint Ia’s we made a loop around the town, beginning and ending at the waterfront. Among the myriad of shops, inns, and restaurants along the water, The Sloop Inn stood out. Dating back to 1312, this classic fisherman’s pub lays claim to being one of the oldest inns in Cornwall.
From there we walked along the coast of what the locals refer to as The Island, but it is really a peninsula. The point is crowned by the St Nicholas Chapel, which is thought to predate St. Ia’s, but no records survive giving the history of the old stone church. What is known is that it was often used to keep watch for smugglers and for storage by the War Office over the.
Our circular route took us onward to Porthmeor Beach along the way to the Tate Gallery. As a hub for artists form more than a century, St Ives seemed the perfect location for second of the Tate’s regional galleries. Opening in 1993, now nearly half a million people visit each year.
For us, the building, built on the site of an old gasworks, was nearly as interesting as the artwork within it. And the view out over the beach back toward the chapel was even better.
A few blocks through the narrow streets we stopped off for one more encounter with Barbara Hepworth’s work at her Museum and Sculpture Garden.
The pioneer in modern sculpture lived and worked here from 1949 until she passed away in 1975 and it was always her wish that it would become a museum.
The small house and garden is managed by the Tate, but has been left very much as it was during her life. She chose most of the positions for the artwork displays and her workshop remains basically untouched.
By the time we completed our leisurely stroll through the grounds we had put a good ten or twelve miles on our feet for the day, so after an ice cream back at the waterfront we opted to take the train back to Cardis Bay.
Cheating? Maybe, but we easily talked ourselves out of that foolish notion.
We felt like we were simply keeping the self in our self-guided tour.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com